Why you might want to buy a house in the Forest of Dean

Situated between the River Severn and River Wye in western Gloucestershire, the Forest of Dean covers around 26,000 acres of ancient woodland and includes picturesque towns and villages.

House prices averaged £321,415 last year, and there’s a diverse range of property here, from attractive stone cottages with views, to listed properties and practical family homes.

Alongside this, there are job opportunities with some of Gloucestershire’s major companies, and being close to the M4 and M5 makes it a commutable area. The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley also offers a wealth of leisure activities.

We investigate the Forest of Dean’s:

  • History
  • Development plans
  • Housing stock and sold house prices

We also get a local estate agent’s view of the property market and look at some examples of properties for sale.

Let’s dive in!

The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.

History of the Forest of Dean

This ancient woodland was a royal hunting forest in medieval times, stocked with deer, and home to wild boar, falcons, and packs of wolves. The woods contained beech, oak, and chestnut trees, and clearings for grazing animals. Later, it became an important source of wood for the navy’s Tudor warships and its timber was also used in the two World Wars.

Large sections of ancient forest were destroyed to make charcoal for the iron industry in the 16th and 17th centuries, but areas were replanted to produce shipbuilding timber from the 1660s. Victorian times saw the development of coal mining and charcoal production in the Forest.

Leisure activities in a working forest

From 1924, control transferred to the Forestry Commission which managed it through the rest of the 20th century as a commercial enterprise, with a growing emphasis on leisure activities. In 1938 the Forest of Dean was designated the first National Forest Park, and while it is a working forest today, growing sustainable timber for the UK market, it’s also a popular tourist destination. The large expanses of woodland area also provide a haven for wildlife.

According to Forestry England, the Forest of Dean’s main visitor sites include Symonds Yat Rock; the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre; Beechenhurst forests; Dymock Woods, famed for its wild daffodils, and the Cyril Hart Arboretum where there are over 200 tree species.

The Forest of Dean is the largest supplier of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)  sustainably grown timber in England. The tree harvesting method ensures habitats are sustained while supporting oxygen, water, and carbon cycles.  

The forest proper lies within the parishes of West Dean, Lydbrook, Cinderford, Ruspidge, Drybrook, and English Bicknor. Forest residents, known as commoners, retain feudal rights under forest law to graze sheep there. Since the 1990s, the forest has included majestic oaks, beech, fir, and commercially managed spruce trees.

The River Wye at Lower Lydbrook in the Forest of Dean.

The Forest of Dean District Council’s development plan

The current Local Plan extends to 2026 and aims to ensure that the Forest of Dean should be a thriving community, offering a high-quality environment and a developing economy, including tourism and sustainable transport, attracting new businesses, jobs, and improved services.

Priorities include meeting the housing needs of residents, including affordable homes and housing for the elderly. Most of the planned changes are targeted at the southern market towns of Lydney and Cinderford, along with Coleford, with an emphasis on improving town centres, creating safe communities, and enabling job creation and services. The plan also aims to enable self-build housing projects or allow an element of self-build within larger schemes: the council has a register of those interested in self-build homes.

A new Local Plan is being devised to set out how the Forest of Dean district will develop to 2041 and deliver new homes, create jobs, safeguard the environment, and provide strategies for protecting areas such as historic buildings, parks, and market town centres. There’s a focus on ensuring that new development is attractive, and what people want to see there.

Housing stock

This ranges from 1930s semi-detached properties to 1960s bungalows in areas like Cinderford and Littledean, along with stone farmhouses, listed property, and pretty cottages. Areas near the River Severn command the highest prices, such as scenic Lydney harbour, Blakeney, and Newnham, along with areas closer to the Wye Valley including Hope Mansell, Lydbrook, and Coleford. Cinderford, where iron ore was mined and smelted, the historic market town of Coleford, and Mitcheldean are some of the more affordable places to buy in this part of Gloucestershire.

Employment opportunities               

Some of Gloucestershire’s biggest companies are based in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, including Lucozade Ribena Suntory in Coleford; Kalex Films in Cinderford, and construction companies KW Bell Group in Cinderford and O’Neill and Brennan Construction in Lydney. The AccXel Construction Education Centre in Cinderford opened in 2021 to train up to 500 pupils a year.

Symonds Yat Rock stands above the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.

Leisure activities

The Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley is 35 minutes from Bristol, and an hour from Birmingham, making it accessible to families seeking a day out, as well as holidaymakers looking for campsites, caravan sites, log cabins, or holiday cottages.

The ancient forest provides a host of outdoor activities, including off-road cycle routes for all abilities, mountain bike trails at Cannop Cycle Centre, hiking, canoeing, paddleboarding, rock-climbing, and off-road driving and there’s also a Go Ape centre.

It also offers plenty of attractions for walkers and nature lovers, along with country pubs, market towns and farm shops. Some of the most popular tourist destinations include Chepstow Castle, Symonds Yat Rock overlooking the Wye Valley, Raglan Castle, and Tintern Abbey. The Forest of Dean’s stunning scenery has been used as a backdrop to scenes in the Harry Potter movies, `Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ and Doctor Who.  

Cycling off the beaten track on forest paths.

Sold house prices in the Forest of Dean

Property prices averaged £321,415 over the last year, according to Rightmove. Detached houses made up most of the sales and sold for an average price of £425,808. Semi-detached houses averaged £271,867 and terraced houses, £231,928. Overall house prices were similar to the previous year and 23% higher than the 2018 peak of £260,950.

Property typeSold priceDate
1 bed terrace£205,500
£120,000
£26,000
August 2022
March 2010
September 1996
2 bed terrace£225,000
£214,995
£115,000
August 2022
February 2022
February 2006
2 bed semi-detached£165,000
£48,000
August 2022
July 1999
3 bed detached£330,000
£255,000
August 2022
January 2017
4 bed semi-detached£448,000
£300,000
£102,100
August 2022
March 2008
June 2000
4 bed detached£535,000
£400,000
August 2022
June 2019
5 bed detached£650,000
£535,000
£320,000
August 2022
June 2016
November 2002
Figures from Rightmove.

An estate agent’s view

The tranquillity and semi-rural nature of the whole area is a big attraction for house buyers, according to Sharon Whitehead, director of Arden Estate Agents in the Forest of Dean, who commented:

We often see people who holidayed here as children returning as adults and buying property. The employment market is good, we are well-placed for the M4 and M5, making us commutable to Bristol and other main centres, and working from home has also changed people’s views about where they can live.

We are still seeing a good property market, it dipped during the brief time of the Truss government, but it has picked up and been steady since then. One of the most popular areas is Lydney, it’s semi-rural but has all the town facilities nearby such as a train station. Popular villages include Woolaston and there’s a strong second-home market in Pillowell and Parkend, which is close to the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre.

Properties for sale in the Forest of Dean

This fabulous grade II listed barn conversion on Bream Road, St Briavels, Lydney, is priced at offers in the region of £899,950. It has a stunning 45-foot-long open plan kitchen/dining/living area, and a sitting room with a 20-foot high, part vaulted ceiling. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms and three bathrooms. It’s set in 6.5 acres of gardens and grounds, and there is also a large agricultural building that includes stables and an office. The agents are House & Home Property.

Panoramic views of the River Wye can be enjoyed from this detached four-bedroom cottage at Hawsley, Lydbrook, on the northwest edge of the Forest of Dean. Station House dates to the 1800s and is the former village police station. As well as enjoying an idyllic setting, it comes with 3.5 acres of land. There are three reception rooms, an indoor swimming pool, and a detached stone barn. It’s for sale through Hamilton Stiller, Ross-on-Wye, and is priced at £745.000.

There are also great views from this detached four-bedroom house at Pastor’s Hill, Bream, Lydney. It has two bathrooms and was extended in 2008 to provide a sunroom. There’s also a potential building plot to the rear of the house. It’s for sale with Steve Gooch Estate Agents, Coleford, priced at £600,000.

Plenty of space and character features can be found in this individual detached house at Ashgrove Place, Yorkley. It has exposed floorboards and two wood-burning stoves on the ground floor, along with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Outside, there’s a garden house and outbuildings and it’s located opposite woodland. Dean Estate Agents of Cinderford are selling this house which is priced at £525,000.

If a traditional stone cottage is on your wish list, this property at Camomile Green, Lydford might fit the bill. It’s a detached, three-bedroom house with 1.5 acres of smallholding land. There are great views over the valley and it’s a short walk to the village shops and school. There are two reception rooms, a new garage/storeroom, and there’s planning permission to extend. The agents dealing with the sale are Ferrino & Partners, Lydney, and the asking price is £475,000.

There is direct access to woodland from this detached bungalow at Hatton Close, Worrall Hill, Lydbrook. It has plenty of scope, with four bedrooms – two on the ground floor – a kitchen-diner, utility room, lounge, and hall. It also benefits from enclosed gardens. Steve Gooch Estate Agents in Mitcheldean are selling this bungalow which is priced at £350,000.

There’s potential to create a fourth bedroom at this terraced house on St White’s Road, Cinderford, which is priced at £229,950. It has a kitchen-diner, conservatory, bathroom, garden, garage, and off-road parking. The agents are KJT Residential, Cinderford.

Have I missed any key points about property in the Forest of Dean?

Do you rate the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley as a good place to live in?

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